Tag Archives: Food

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Spring?

Possibly. Who can say, Florida being what it is? That image is from yesterday, as I got caught up in other things before I was able to come back and finish the post. BUT: the forecast now is the same as it was on the 8th when I took that screenshot. It will be around 80F during the days, and around or slightly above 50F in the evenings.

Mother Nature can decide at some point to hammer down on us with more winter days, and she may still get around to that. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic to the point that I weeded out both the carrots/beets/radishes/kale row and the peas/cukes row in order to sow a few varieties of carrots, radishes, and shelling peas. If we get a hit of freezing weather, and sprouting stuff is killed, seed for these things is cheap. I can just throw some more seed into the rows.

Having said that, there are still carrots from last year in the row. I found today that something has been nibbling at the leafy carrot tops. Usually, that equals a bunny – and I have found rabbit nests in the asparagus and carrot rows before. That means another item for the todo list: do a walkaround of the fence, as there’s a gap somewhere that needs to be closed.

Things I did not get completed? Lots. many things. I’m not going to have one of those conversations with myself about why things didn’t get done and how I’m a slacker and bad person, though. Instead, I’m just going to recognize it for what it is: illnesses threw a wrench into the grand plan, and there’s little I can do about that.

I did get the hive equipment out of the barn, as the barn bees didn’t make it. I also cleared the last of the honey off the floor in there, and tested my grow lights. The fixtures I use have two lights. On some of those fixtures, one of the sides will not work, for whatever reason. That’s a bit of a bummer, as I like to spread light out across the entirety of the tables. Instead, I’ll use those at the sides, and let the dead portion of those fixtures be on the outside of the table.

Speaking of bees, with the warmer weather comes the rampup of queens laying and the possibility of swarming. I’m going to inspect hive #8 to make sure they have plenty of room to expand without being overcrowded. When spring officially arrives, I’ll be splitting that hive at least once, and possibly twice. That’s the plan, anyhow: keep this queen’s genes in as many hives as I can.

Time to wrap this up and get back to the various work I need to do.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Gimme a B!

For bean. Or give me a G for garbanzo. Or give me a C for chickpea.

Do you sense a trend?

One of the things I used to make in my old life was garbanzo bean soup, AKA Spanish bean soup. After I stopped being able to chew and swallow stuff, I sort of lost my way on that and a bunch of other things. It’s only reasonable, I suppose, to get a bit depressed about the state of your being and realize that you’re going to have to bow down to the inevitable, as otherwise, you’re liable to get bitter about it, too. Knowing that you probably have a couple more decades on this planet and that this is how your life will be is just….well, it sucks, not to put it too bluntly.

The other conclusion that I’ve reached after years of working on the rehab side of thing, trying to get my mouth stretched against the damage and scar tissue gifted to me from the radiation to my head and neck – hey, fuck you, cancer! – is that I’m really never going to be able to eat anywhere close to how I ate  as a normal person. I’m not even going to be able to eat like I did when I was trying to save my teeth by shelling out thousands to my dentist, which wasn’t great, but at least it was real, solid food.

After reading up on the effects malnutrition can play once you’ve been hit over the head over and over by cancer (fuck you, cancer!), the treatments, the side effects of those treatments, and the lasting “gifts” from those treatments, I decided it’s going to be soups (non-chunky, please) and purees for me from here out.

I figured I would do some looking around at baby food makers, because most have all the functions built in these days: steam food and puree it, from the same appliance, without whipping a ton of air (and thus foam) into the food. While I was doing this, I was thinking about the food combinations that would be more like a real meal. A meat and three sides, for instance (and if you’re from the South, you’ll get just as much a giggle out of that as I did). Purees of my own slow smoked pork butts with my own bbq sauce, beans, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. Purees of my guacamole. And on and on.

So I picked up a variety of purees for for babies, figuring I could get a sense of what flavors worked together in that form, and how they tasted. I chose samples from three different companies  of the ones my Publix carried that were for babies about six months and up.

One word: gross.

Toddlers don’t exactly have refined palates. After all, anyone who has been around children know they will put almost anything in their mouth, from food to dirt to cat poop. This probably makes it easier to feed them the purees from the manufacturers and easier on the manufacturers to produce those. Who can fault any of this? Not me.

But if you’re an adult, faced with finding things to eat because your mouth and throat are basically that of a baby/toddler, these things can be pretty dreadful. Disclosure: I tried multiple items, from different producers, and they ALL tasted bad to me, even the stuff that was nominally just (say) a fruit puree. It’s damn hard to get an adult who likes peaches disgusted by a peach puree. Make that puree taste like tin wrapped around slime, though, and presto!

I wound up tossing “adult puree” into the Oracle and came away with some interesting things. One is that there is a company that makes purees, for adults, in cans. No offense, but I am not trying those. There are also sites with suggestions for people with dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and people on soft or what are known as “soft mechanical” diets – i.e., people with dentures or implants. Or people who can’t have implants and for whom dentures are out of reach, too painful, or physiologically a problem. Choose one or all.

The how to get to purees is simple: cook the food, puree it. The how to get there using what to puree it is not that simple. I looked at babyfood makers, as I said, because that’s what they’re designed to do: cook the food and puree it. I realized, when looking at them, that they would probably be insufficient, unless I wanted to be making food every couple of days. While I don’t eat a ton more than a growing baby does, I do eat frequently through the day. I needed something more robust, but I didn’t need a bottle warmer or a defroster/warmer, and I didn’t really need the high points a few of the reviewers pointed out in the ones I was looking at, because using both hands to deal with it wasn’t an issue for me versus the mom with a tot in one hand trying to get things done with the other. After doing some searching on what was better to puree, and reading reviews, I decided to get one of the Ninja brand machines that specifically got good grades on purees, and its other functions – like making shakes, which I will still be drinking – are those I will also use. It will also enable me to replace the current little blender I use to make shakes, so it’s a multitasker.

Now, I finally pulled the trigger on that Saturday night. Much to my surprise, Amazon told me it would be delivered Monday, thanks to Prime. Awesome! The problem: the United State Postal Service. More specifically, the rural USPS. Monday: no delivery. I knew – I knew! – the problem, because it’s one I’ve faced before.

Like many places now, we have a communal mailbox. Ours has two larger parcel boxes for things that won’t fit into the small mailbox for each house. If those are full, or the items will not fit, most of the time, the carrier will take them back to the PO. This is even though a) it’s roughly 200 yards from the community box to my front door, b) in the winter, like right now, you can literally see my front door from the box, and c) the fact they have to drive past my driveway not once but TWICE to deliver mail to another small cluster of houses that are built within my already small little area. We’ve had this chat with the postmaster over at the PO, and it’s made no difference: some of the rural carriers are shitty, and whether we actually get something on time that is either shipped USPS or where USPS is the last mile (common in rural areas where things are shipped by UPS or FedEx but end up at the PO for the final leg of delivery) depends on who is driving.

The other annoying thing about this is that I can’t just go the next day to pick up the package, because there’s no way to know if they will bring it out the next day and attempt it. So the next day, the carrier drops the notice in the box, and the day after that, I go pick up whatever it is. Two days later than the “guaranteed” delivery, because we have lazy carriers. It isn’t like they’re humping this stuff on their backs. I just can’t understand it sometimes, and I’ve given up on trying. I’m annoyed, though, because I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

In any case, the Great Puree Test will have to wait until tomorrow. Who knows – if I can develop some good recipes, I could probably write a cookbook for people who either have the same issues as I do or care for someone who does. Or for moms who want their babies to go on a food adventure outside the stuff companies are making.

Until next time, peeps: be well. Don’t forget to chew your food thoroughly.

 

When life gives you fish (oil)

So Thursday was a pretty crappy day.

As my small but deluded devoted readers know, I put a hive with a very, very small population of bees in the barn to protect them from the freeze. I had found the queen (yay!) and they seemed happy enough. The past few days have been in the mid-70s, and when I checked on them on Thursday, I found it had gotten too hot in the barn with the heater running: one of the frames had its wax melted, and there was honey and wax all over the floor.

So, I had to clean that, scooping up the honey and wax with a bench scraper, and then washing up the mess. And…the bees were not in the hive box. They were clustered up again the window. I got them down, but did not find the queen. As the queen had one wing clipped, she certainly would not be flying anywhere. She was not in the box, not on the window, and I couldn’t find her amongst the bees that had finally reached their last shift and died.

I was taking a break from the cleanup to get something to eat, and had a coughing fit – a hard one – and my throat started to close. I wrapped one of those cold towels that you put in cold water and then snap to get excess out around my neck and tried to stay calm through the wheezing. It finally eased, and was fine the rest of the evening, although it made me a bit hoarse.

To top off my craptacular day, I was going to do a formula feed through the tube, and when I flushed the tube with water before starting the formula, I felt wetness on my abdomen where the tube goes in, and then on my hands. I wondered if I’d just not put the syringe fully into the tube, but nope: the tube itself had split open at the abdomen side. It’s been in place for eleven months, so it wasn’t terribly surprising, but it was (and is) annoying. When I coughed, a little squirt of belly juice would erupt from one of the holes the blowout had caused. I needed something to hold things together before Tuesday, when I’ll go to the hospital and the doc will replace the thing. I took a small binder clip (the black ones with the wings), clipped it to the tube at my abdomen just before the tube goes into my stomach, then wrapped gauze around that.

Toss in some other stress, and Thursday was a shitty, shitty day. I’ll explain the oil in the next post, as I’m typing this right now and suddenly feel like I’m about to barf.

Until next time, peeps, be well.

Business 101

Boss: “We’re a pretzel and chip outfit. What can we do with all the broken pieces that don’t make it through the line?”

Product person: “I have a solution, boss!”

Boss: “That’s a bonus for you!”

Product person: “But wait, there’s more! You know how some of the whole pretzels get knocked out of the sorting line because they’re overcooked?”

Boss: “Yeeeesss. Do you have something in mind for that?”

Product person: “Yes, I do!”

Boss: “Wow, Product Person, you are getting a double bonus for this.”

Product Person looks down, shuffles their feet: “Aw, thanks Boss.”

No disrespect to Unique, which appears to be the brand. Personally, I think this is marketing brilliance. Even if I could eat, I wouldn’t eat either one, but I’m sure others will. I picked up a bag of the “extra dark splits” thing up there, to force my family into taste testing them. Someone around here has to do it, now that I can’t.

 

Let them eat soup

This past weekend was soup time. Why?

Frankly, the diet of shakes and formula and yogurt is, at times, something that just does not satisfy that deep inner craving for food that is…well, more food-like. Normal people food, I call it.

Soups made: broccoli cheese and roasted red pepper. The broccoli cheese went over very well, according to the taste testers, and since that one is nearly gone, today I’ll be making an even larger batch, picking up more of what I need after I finish my appointment with the gut doc.

This past weekend was also the weekend I was going to make hot sauce from the tabasco harvest, but I just never really got there to do it. I’m going to put that back on the list and hopefully be able to cross it off this weekend.

In the meantime, my last feed of the night awaits me: formula, yogurt, and my last round of meds for the day. Night.  Early morning now, I see by the clock.

Speaking of clocks, can I just mention here AGAIN that I cannot stand the end of daylight saving time? I’d rather be like Arizona in this one, particular, specific way: leave the clocks alone. Spring forward and just keep it there. The circumstances for which it was created no longer apply to our world in the 21st century, and like old, obsolete hardware, should be put out of its – and our – misery.

On the writing front: I decided to work on one of the novels for NaNoWriMo this month, while working on one of the other novels in the spaces between that writing and “real” work. This is mainly because the entire plot and story for this NaNoWriMo novel came to me last night rather suddenly and completely. I know exactly how it begins, how exactly it ends, and I know the larger chunks of the material filling in the gulf between those two bookends. I am not quite up to the word count total I should be after two days of working on this novel, but that is only because I had not actually planned to do NaNoWriMo, This is a spur of the moment decision. As an even bigger challenge to myself, I’m setting my goal at over the 50K words that deems anyone a “winner” for NaNoWriMo, and I am also committing myself, here in public, to writing the entire novel, doing all the things that need to be done to get it into publishable form, and publishing it.

Lesson for the day? Make your goals big ones, but make sure your path to that goal is broken into manageable chunks. It’s too easy to have fear invade your mind because you are focusing too much on the giant goal you’ve set, thinking you must do it all at once. You don’t.  There is very little in life that can be accomplished in one fell swoop, but there are a large number of things in life that can be done with consistent, persistent effort, and a map that ultimately leads to the larger goal.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Pictures, we got pictures

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to post them. But today – a day that was supposed to be all rain, all day, turned into another bum forecast for this area. The large mass of heavy storms burned themselves out before they got to us. We did get about 0.15 inches of rain today, which is just enough to be annoying: can’t mow, can’t work on pulling weeds (because getting all the soil off the roots is a pain), can’t work with the bees, and so on.

It was, though, an excellent day for having my niece and nephew over while my sister took care of a few things, and during a break in the rain we did have, we picked some muscadine grapes from the vine in the herb garden. I also found some caterpillars on the foliage. At first, in my addled, needs-much-more-sleep brain, I thought, hey, monarchs! Then I reminded myself they only use milkweed, which this was not, and their caterpillars have no hairs, as these did. We finally identified them with some help from Stacy (thanks!) as grapeleaf skelentonizer caterpillars – an entirely apt name, because that’s exactly what they do to the leaves on the grapevines. The adult moth they  morph into is ugly, too. I counted 15, mostly young ones. Tomorrow, I’ll go on caterpillar patrol and kill them all.

The first round of peppers I harvested the other day is in and drying. By tomorrow morning, they will be fully dried, and I’ll start round two. Given the shape the plants and fruits are in, there will only be two rounds this time. Tomorrow, my sister is coming over, and we will pull the pepper plants that have been chewed away/damaged to nothing, along with the squash and zuke plants the bugs got to. We did manage to get some yellow squash off early from those, and they were delicious. Inattention, however, allows the bugs to take over and destroy things. If only some bright person would come up with a commercially viable solution for leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs, they’d make a fortune.

Very early this morning, I went to the doc for my annual checkup, even though I had just seen him two weeks ago. All my bloodwork is normal, except for a couple of items that are slightly out of normal range, but not so far out that they’re problematic. Xrays are good, scans are good, and on paper, if someone just looked at these results, they’d pronounce me in fine health indeed. And that, of course, is what I tell people: outside this cancer business (fuck you, cancer!), I’m healthy as a horse – healthier, actually, than most people. I did talk to him about my right shoulder, which I’ve either torn the rotator cuff or the labrum in, most likely. I’m fairly sure I did this months ago, and it’s progressively gotten worse, but I have ha so many things going on this year, it’s taken a seat behind all that. Now, though, it’s time, and it will probably take an mri to figure out what the problem is. Interesting note: my referral to an ortho doc happens to be to the brother of the doc who handled my radiation oncology work back in 2005 for the first cancer round. He also surgically repaired my primary doc’s rotator cuff injury, so he’s definitely the guy I want.

Tomorrow, we are planning to do some honey extraction – about 10 frames, I believe, that I pulled off the bees in the west yard. I really need to do a full round of inspections on the girls, and tomorrow I also need to feed them, as I’m behind a day on that.

And now, it’s back to tame the helldesk, get that cleared, and eventually tonight, get some sleep that is better than last night’s, which was atrocious even for my baseline of sleep habits.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

Touching yourself

That should bring the pr0n spammers around.

More accurately, the title of this post should be “NOT Touching Yourself”. Or “Wear gloves when working with chiles”. As in, don’t touch your face (or any other area) when you’re working with chiles and not wearing gloves, no matter where they fall on the Scoville scale.

In other news, we had almost an inch of ranch at the ranch this afternoon, with some giant cells moving over us. Huge thunderous roars came from the sky as it opened up on us and provided a light show.

I used Movavi* to do a couple of repeat clips at the end to show it in slow motion and then again in super slow motion. Very lucky to catch it, and it is awesome.

*No, Movavi does not pay me, and that is not an affiliate link. I have access to Adobe’s Premiere Pro, and that is a fine product, to be sure. But I don’t really have the time to spend figuring out everything in it when I can just slam some clips into Movavi, do a rough edit, and be done. I also have to redo all our tutorials on the “real” business side, as those are woefully out of date with the design they contain, even though the various functions operate mostly as they used to. Just another item on the todo list, which never goes away.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Plans, we got ’em

This weekend: probably more on this server thing, but thankfully that is coming to a close, at least as far as our involvement goes.

Other plans: pepper picking time! The cayennes and paprikas are nice and red  – I noticed while getting some mowing time in. That means harvesting, washing, splitting, and drying. It also means a house full of the smell of drying peppers, which is usually not that bad, although there are times when the smell – of that or any other food – is nauseating to me.

I’ll also be making broccoli cheese soup, because I am getting kind of tired of shakes and formula. If things (like my back) hold up, I might even make some cheesy potato soup (with crispy ham!) as well.

And another trip to the NOC, to set up a machine for someone who is upgrading his existing server to a big dog machine, so that is one ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty and even more sleep deprived than usual week.

On a completely other note, meteorology really is one of the few jobs that you can be consistently wrong and still have a job. Today’s forecast: no rain, at all. Literally, a 0% forecast. Then a nice cell rolled right over us and brought about .2 inches of rain. Not a lot, and better than none.

Also on the menu for this weekend: taking stock of my sad, sad tomatoes, seeing what can be recovered, going through my seeds and finding some short maturity varieties to start another flat, and, of course, weeding. The weeds are not as bad in the frames where we’ve gotten the plastic or the weedblock down, but the edges are a nightmare because of the bowing of the frame edges (to be fixed in the fall, because that’s a heavy duty job). It’s also time to feed the bees again: the other day, I added additional brood boxes to two of them, so they are making progress.

Right now: more database wrangling, and then a brief stop for a nap before getting back up and doing more.

Until next time, peeps: be well.